UC Davis Opens 2012 Season Against Azusa Pacific
Aug. 29, 2012
Azusa Pacific (0-0)
UC Davis (0-0)
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012
6 p.m. Davis, Calif.
Aggie Stadium (10,849)
KSAC (105.5 FM)
UC Davis begins its 94th season of football on Thursday night with its first-ever game against Azusa Pacific.
The Cougars are the third NCAA Division II opponent for the Aggies in the past four seasons, following matchups against Western Oregon (W,29-13; 2009) and Humboldt State (L,23-17; 2012).
APU is in its first year of Div. II competition after moving up from NAIA classification.
The season opener also marks the first game of the final season for 20th-year Aggie coach Bob Biggs who announced after last season he would be retiring from the sidelines following 2012.
Biggs (140-78-1) is the second-winningest coach in school history behind legendary JIM SOCHOR (156-41-5, 1970-88)... Biggs is in his 35th year on the Aggie coaching staff after serving as a longtime assistant coach under Sochor and BOB FOSTER (1989-92).
The season also turns the page on conference affiliation for UC Davis which joins the newly expanded Big Sky Conference after eight years in the Great West Conference... The Aggies join Southern Utah, North Dakota and Cal Poly as GWC teams now part of the Big Sky... The new conference now has 13 members but UC Davis will only play eight of them this year... The eight-game schedule is the most ever for an Aggie team... The most previous was six, done both in the Northern California Athletic Conference and Far West Conference.
The Aggies are playing in August for the second time... They played at San Jose State on Aug. 30, 2008, losing a heartbreaking 13-10 matchup... The teams will renew their regional rivalry next weekend.
This week's game is also believed to be the first-ever Thursday game for UC Davis.
QB Randy Wright enters his third season as the Aggies' starter and helps lead eight offensive starters that return in 2012... Seven defensive starters and five on the special teams are also back, pacing 61 letterwinners overall.
Nine returners, including five first-teamers, earned All-Great West Conference honors in 2011... C Ray Wilburn, OL Sean Davies, WR Tom Hemmingsen, FS Kevyn Lewis and DE Bobby Erskine each earned first-team recognition.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. AZUSA PACIFIC
Thursday's game is the first-ever meeting between the programs.
They did share a common opponent in 2011 with the University of San Diego... The Cougars dropped a 42-40 heartbreaker to the Toreros on Sept. 3 last year while UC Davis posted a 31-3 win over USD two weeks later... They do not share any common opponents in 2012.
Bob Biggs (UC Davis `73) is in his 20th season at the helm of the Aggies and his 35th with the program overall.
He owns a 140-78-1 (.642) overall record and is 72-25-1 (.742) against NCAA Div. II teams... Biggs is also 39-31-1 (.557) in the month of September and is 16-10 (.615) at Aggie Stadium.
Biggs is the second-winningest coach in the history of the UC Davis program, trailing only Jim Sochor whose 156-41-5 record between 1970-88 led to his enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Four of Biggs' QB's have gone on to play professional football, including QB J.T. O'SULLIVAN (1998-2001) and former San Jose SaberCats (AFL) starter MARK GRIEB (1994-96)... Others include KHARI JONES (1991-93) who had a standout career in the Canadian Football League and Kevin Daft (1995-98) who was a reserve on the Tennessee Titans when they went to the Super Bowl XXXIV... Daft is now an assistant coach at with the Aggies.
VICTOR SANTA CRUZ (Hawaii `95) is in his seventh season with Azusa Pacific where he owns a 29-35 (.453) record in his first six years.
Santa Cruz joined the Cougars coaching staff as offensive coordinator in 2001, moving seven years ago into defensive coordinator duties.
Prior to his assignment with Azusa Pacific, Santa Cruz coached for five years as an assistant at El Camino High School in Oceanside, Calif.
BRIEF AZUSA PACIFIC SCOUTING REPORT
The Cougars return 11 starters from last year's team that finished 9-3 overall and advanced to the national quarterfinals in their final NAIA season.
That squad featured an impressive rushing attack that totaled a school-record 3,915 yards... The offense overall averaged 45.6 ppg and 496.4 total yards per game.
A (literally) big portion of that offense returns with bookend tackles LUKE MARQUARDT (6-9, 322) and ROBBY PALACIOS (6-5, 320)... Six returning letterwinners onm the line with starting experience are back in 2012... Marquardt was named to the 2012 Senior Bowl Watch List.
Left-hander NICK OWENS, a transfer from Moorpark College, enters his first season as the Cougars' signal-caller... RB TERRELL WATSON, who rushed for 697 yards, 15 TD's and averaged 6.5 yards per carry, returns.
WR BOOMER HENRY is the leading receiver back on the squad after catching 19 pass for 277 yards and four touchdowns.
Five starters return on defense including LB SEAN BARBER who had 106 tackles, an interception and two sacks last year... ROV SPENCER DANIELSON had 82 stops and also returns.
The Cougars surrendered an average of 313.8 ypg. last year including just 102.2 on the ground.
They were solid on third down, allowing opponents to capitalize just 34 percent (62-181) of the time.
Overall, Azusa Pacifc gave up an average of just 4.6 yards per play and 20.3 ppg.
SCHMIDT ELEVATES PUNTING GAME
The year before P Colton Schmidt arrived at UC Davis, the Aggies struggled mightily in the punting department, averaging just 33.4 yards per kick and have five of them blocked.
Since then, Schmidt has moved among the elite ranks of all-time punters at UC Davis... He's averaged 40.1 yards per kick over his first three years, including a school-record 42.3 yards last season.
His true freshman year was just as impressive when he averaged 39.1 yards.
Schmidt has pinned 56 kicks inside the 20, last year had 13 punts go at least 50 yards, booted a 67-yarder as a freshman and a year later set a school record with a 78-yard punt at North Dakota.
The school record for career average is well within reach... It's held by Chris Shibel (40.72 from 2001-04).
EXPERIENCE ON THE LINE
UC Davis returns four-fifths of its starting offensive line from last season with all four returners starting every game they played... T Ian Joseph, OG Sean Davies and OG Jimmy Kunkel each started all 11 games in the season while C Ray Wilburn got the starting nod in all 10 games he played.
Only redshirt freshman T Parker Smith is new to the group.
TOP TACKLERS BACK FOR THE AGGIES
Five of the top six tacklers from last year's team will take their spots on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of linebackers who combined for 136 tackles in 2011.
LB Jordan Glass and LB Byron Gruendl each had 68 stops a year ago and combined for 14.0 TFL's including two sacks... Glass tied for team-high honors with two interceptions and also forced and recovered a fumble.
FS Kevyn Lewis, who had 49 stops including 34 solo, was third last season while LB Reece Ludwig (42 tackles, 4.5 TFL's) and FT Andrew Benjamin (40 tackles, 5.0 TFL's) bring more experience.
Additionally, the Aggies had eight interceptions in 2011 and players that totaled six of them are back... Glass, CB Jonathan Perkins and DT Khalid Jones each had two picks.
WRIGHT TO START FOR THIRD YEAR
QB Randy Wright will open the season under center for the third season after making his debut in 2010 as a redshirt freshman against none other than Cal.
In his tenure, he's thrown for 4,682 yards and 31 toucdowns and has thrown just 14 intereceptions in 684 attempts.
He highlighted his 2011 season with a career-high 320 yards against UTSA.
Wright needs three attempts to move into a tie for No. 10 all-time at UC Davis (JIM SPECK, 1973-76), is already 10th for completions (393) and needs 48 to move up a spot on that list, and needs 705 yards to crack the top 10 career yards chart.
He is the Aggies' second straight three-year starter since taking over for QB Greg Denham (2007-09).
NEW KICKER FOR THE AGGIES
UC Davis graduated senior K Sean Kelley who left after last season with 44 career field goals (second all-time), 124 PAT's (4th) and career listings for field goal attempts (60, 2nd) and PAT attempts (127, 6th).
Redshirt freshman K Brady Stuart will assume kicking duties in 2012 after entering the program ranked 16th nationally by Chris Sailer Kicking.
Stuart helped highlight the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage on Aug. 23, connecting on all three of his attempts from 41, 32 and 38 yards.
AGGIES LOOK TO IMPROVE RUSHING ATTACK
With an experienced offensive line leading the way, UC Davis looks to improve its running game after averaging just 95.4 yards in 2011.
The Aggies only broke the century mark four times last year but ended on a strong note with 206 against rival Sacramento State in the finale.
Three times they were held to less than 50 including just 23 against San Diego (26 attempts).
The 1,049 total rushing yards was the program's third-lowest total since 1970.
UC DAVIS IN THE FINAL 2011 NCAA STATS
Five current Aggies found themselves ranked among the national FCS leaders when final statistics were tabulated at the end of the season.
P Colton Schmidt (11th, punting, 42.3); KR Jonathan Perkins (44th, kick returns, 22.35), WR Tom Hemmingsen (T-65th, rec., 4.55 pg; 86th, rec. yds, 56.55 ypg), QB Randy Wright (59th, total off., 196.09 ypg; 64th, pass. effic., 57.0) all found mention.
As a team, the Aggies' highest was net punting (13th, 37.3).
UC Davis owns an all-time record of 488--368-33 (.567) as it plays its 94th season of football... The Aggies started playing in 1915 and have played continuously except for 1918, and 1943-45.
A total of 15 head coaches, beginning with R.E. HARMON (1915-16) have directed the Aggies' program with College Football Hall of Fame Inductee JIM SOCHOR (1969-88) winning a program-best 156 games.
Since opening Aggie Stadium in 2007, the Aggies have gone 16-10 (.615) including a 3-2 mark last season.
UC Davis played at Toomey Field from 1949-2006 before moving to its current home.
The Aggies are debuting in their fifth conference since 1925 and their first new conference since 2004... They joined the Great West Conference in `04 and were eight-year members of the league along with Cal Poly and Southern Utah who now join them in the Big Sky Conference.
UC Davis was 19-15 (.559)during its Great West run, capturing league titles in 2005 and 2009.
The Aggies are no strangers to conference success, having won outright or shared 20 consecutive titles from 1971-1990 in the Far Western Conference and Northern California Athletic Conference.
UC Davis also tied for the title in its only year of membership in the American West Conference (1993).
The Aggies have won or shared 30 all-time league titles... Its first came in 1929 when it went 5-0 in the Far Western Conference.
UC Davis' conference affiliation: Far Western Conference (1925-81), NCAC (1982-92), American West (1993) and Great West (2004-2011).
The Aggies are 77-56-2 (.578) all-time against current members of the Big Sky, a big chunk of that coming against Sacramento State (41-18)... UC Davis also owns winning records against Cal Poly (18-16-2), Southern Utah (10-6) and North Dakota (1-1).
STREAKS OF NOTE
UC Davis went from parts of 1990 until the 2008 season opener at Fresno State (L,51-0)without being shutout, a span of 212 games... While that brought to an end an overall streak, a streak of home games remains intact, standing now at 118 games.
While no longer active, the Aggies did have a streak of 442 games gaining at least 200 yards in offense... That was stopped by Cal in the 2010 opener when they were held to just 81 yards in a 51-3 loss to the Golden Bears... The streak went all the way back to 1969 after being limited to 130 by Nevada.
UC Davis has four team captains this season in DE Bobby Erskine, FS Kevyn Lewis, C Ray Wilburn and OG Sean Davies.
AGGIE COACHING TREE INCLUDES BIG NAMES
Besides becoming the all-time winningest coach at UC Davis, former mentor JIM SOCHOR has several former players and assistants who have gone to notable college or pro coaching careers, including:
MIKE BELLOTTI (Oregon, former head coach), who played for Sochor in 1969-72 and was a subsequent assistant coach.
DAN HAWKINS (Colorado, former head coach) played for UC Davis in 1981-82, was later an assistant with the Aggies and subsequently was head coach at Boise State .
CHRIS PETERSEN (Boise State, head coach), who played for UC Davis in 1985-86 and was also an assistant... He has led Boise State to national prominence at the NCAA Div. I FBS level.
PAUL HACKETT (Oakland Raiders, asst. coach), who played from 1966-68, was an assistant at UC Davis as well a head coach at USC, Pittsburgh and an assistant in the NFL.
UC DAVIS TABBED 11TH, 12TH IN POLL
The Aggies were voted by the Big Sky head coaches to finish 12th this during voting conducted over the summer... They were slightly better by the media, picked to finish 11th.
Montana State, Eastern Washington, Montana, Portland State and Cal Poly were voted to the top five spots in both polls.
UC Davis did not receive mention in either of the major national polls by The Sports Network (media/SID's) or the FCS Coaches.
SCHEDULE BRINGS CHALLENGES
Top to bottom, UC Davis could be facing its toughest schedule ever when considering the Big Sky's placement among the power leagues in the FCS.
Eastern Washington won the 2010 NCAA Div. I FCS title in 2010 and Montana has been a longtime force in the division.
The Aggies, however, will also face an FBS team (San Jose State) for the seventh time in the past eight seasons (only 2008 was exempt during that run)... They're facing the Spartans for the fourth time in that span and are 1-2 in their previous matchups.
Altogther, UC Davis is 2-7 (.222) versus FBS competition since 2005 with the other win besides San Jose State coming at Stanford in 2005 (20-17)... Other FBS foes included Boise State (2009), Fresno State (2009), Hawai'i (2011), Arizona State (2011) and TCU (2006).
UC Davis is 70-53-4 (.576) vs. the 2012 schedule.
PRESEASON ACCOLADES FOR UC DAVIS
C Ray Wilburn, an All-Great West Conference first-team honoree last year, was named to The Sports Network FCS Preseason All-America third team in July.
He was joined on the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference team by DE Bobby Erskine, FS Kevyn Lewis and P Colton Schmidt... UC Davis' four selections tied Eastern Washington for the second-highest total in the league.
NEW COACHES WELCOMED TO STAFF
Aggie coach Bob Biggs welcomed three new coaches to his staff for the upcoming season including one he used to coach.
Kevin Daft, a standout QB for the Aggies in the mid-1990's who was drafted by the Tennesee Titans in 1999, returns to his alma mater to as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach... Daft was most recently an assistant at Cal.
WILL COFE joins as a coach on the defensive line... The former Arizona State player and Sun Devils alum came to the Aggies from Pacific University in Oregon where he assisted former Aggie assistant Keith Buckley restart that Div. III program.
DAMARO WARREN spent the last two years at Div. II powerhouse Central Washington as a graduate assistant and will oversee the Aggie cornerbacks this season... He also brings collegiate experience from Southern Oregon (2007-09).